***Translation of Document 8:93 (2010-2011)*** Original available at: http://www.regjeringen.no/upload/UD/Vedlegg/brev/brev_svarimse110304.

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Document 8:93 (2010-2011)


Oslo, March 4. 2011

I refer to letter from 22.02.2011, - with a request for a statement about document 8:93S, suggestion from representatives Morten Hglund, Karine L. Woldset, Perter M. Myhre and Kari Stortrand about a strategy for internet and social media in a human rights perspective. This is a very complex issue, and the government works in several ways to advocate Norway’s policy in these matters. Let me comment, and give extensive statements on these issues. 1. Freedom of speech is a prerequisite for all human rights and the work for freedom of speech is central in the governments work for human rights. When I launched the governments “freedom of speech directive” in 2008, to strengthen our commitment in areas of conflict, I made clear that freedom of speech is a core value in Norway’s human rights engagement ant policy. The initiative from 2008 has created the fundament for a significant Norwegian international commitment for freedom of speech. The last few weeks (May, 2011 ed.note) we have witnessed a huge transition in northern Africa and the Middle East. In both in Tunisia and Egypt, youth have, probably with the help of internet and social media, been able to mobilize, demanding regime change and democratic rights. Authorities in the countries referred to, have several times tried to shut access to the internet, but only to a lesser degree succeeded. For young people - and others in this region, the internet and social media is an important source of information and communication. The strict demand of free access and communication rendered the authorities unable to control the flow of information. Broadcasting from BBC and Al Jazzera among others, was overwhelming and bore whitens of the number of people supporting the demand for more democracy. Where traditional media were denied access, regular people filmed with their digital camera which later was posted onto youtube i.e. Messages were posted to twitter, youtube and facebook and hence contributed to drawing masses, day after day. In 2008 - Norway increased its support to freedom of speech and free media in areas of conflict - by 15 million NOK. This while seeking a closer collaboration with organizations for free media.

Today (May 2011 ed. Note) Norway support several freedoms of speech projects in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Freedom of speech on the internet and on social media are one of these focus areas. For example, we support a local research project in Egypt focusing on the role of social media regarding the regime change. As part of this project, we support numerous of the leading people and organizations regarding human rights on the internet. Article 19 is a collaboration with several countries to improves the laws regulating media, laws that will strengthens medias independence and discourage censorship, both regarding traditional media and the internet. The freedom of speech network IFEX spread the knowledge about safe routs of communication to citizen in “non democratic” countries. Freedom House and Index on Censorship is among the members of the IFEX-network and have done groundbreaking work regarding mapping of censorship and providing support to people in authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. With the support of Ministry of Foreign affairs, independent organizations work with establishing a platform of communication between western countries and un-democratic countries. Work is being done to safe guard against cyber attacks and data-theft. Ministry of foreign affairs also advocate channels that allow web-sites that are block in “un-democratic” countries, to be reached by allowing the people to circumvent the firewall blocking the site. This work is important for society for both totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. The organizations Norway often supports are often based on solidarity between authors and writers in several countries, and internet addicts i.e. The support of these organizations is a central part of Norway’s aim of promoting freedom of speech and human rights. II The Norwegian government works strategically to enable freedom of speech on the internet and in social media. In addition to supporting central organizations, the Norwegian government addresses these issues in conversations with other courtiers where the basic human rights are violated. As parliamentarians Hoglund, Woldseth, Myhre og Storstrand point out, many countries have limited freedom of speech in public spaces, in media and on the internet. I western democracies, this includes encouragement for hate and violence, defamation, child pornography, discrimination and racism. This is completely in line with the UNs convention on civilian and political rights. Freedom on the internet and social media is hence an expression we use with some caution. Freedom of speech – with the limitations I mentioned before – is something different. Freedom of speech on the internet and in social media is something we bring up on several occasions.

The debate in UNs human rights council and UNs General Assembly about racism, religion and freedom of speech is one of the most controversial international human rights debates at the moment. The demand to update and strengthen the international “instruments” for dealing with racism, xenophobia and intolerance, including hate speech, condescending statements on religions/blasphemy and “cybercrimes” continue to stretch the boundaries for freedom of speech, the way its constituted in the international convention for civil and political rights. Protecting freedom of speech, is a mentioned a high priority for the Norwegian government. Together with other likeminded nations, we all agree that we will not accept language that limits the freedom of speech, something which we consider one of the most fundamental human rights aspect and crucial for a democratic society. In 2009, USA and Egypt initiated the work on a new consensus for a resolution on freedom of speech in UNs human rights council following the Canadian resolution being questioned the previous year. This succeeded after long and though negotiations. The Norwegian government supported this initiative. Norway support the work of UNs special reporter for human rights activists and UNs special reporter for freedom of speech, the latter currently working on a report on access to electronic communication and freedom of speech in the internet. The rapport will be finished by the end of the year. (2011 red. anm) By the end of March, there will be held an expert meeting on human rights and internet in Sweden. This expert meeting is part of the work of the special reporter to the human rights council. As part of our work with UNs human rights council, we also use something called “country hearing” – Universal Periodic Review – to strengthen the work for freedom of speech. Meeting with countries lacking freedom of speech, we bring forward the issue and ask them to implement suggestions for improvement which we later use as a platform for “follow up” in the long run. Freedom of speech on the internet and in social media is central areas of focus in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and it is also high up on the representant of freedom of the press`s “to do”-list. The problem was also raised at the 2010 Atsana summit, where it was agreed upon that all attempts to limit access to the internet or social media in a member state, will be prosecuted by “Freedom of press representative” or some of the other members. The declaration of the 2010 summit is therefore a central aspect of Norway’s commitment to protecting freedom of speech on the internet and in social media. OSCEs representative for freedom of press launched 10 principals for freedom of speech and press. Principle 5, 6 and 7 revolve around internet as the first, truly global medium, and with a direct appeal to all countries to keep free and to stop all legislations threatening to limit it. In this respect, it must be mentioned that we are only at the beginning of a technical revolution, and that the same principals must apply to these methods of sending and receiving information.

Norway supports the freedom of press representatives focus on freedom of speech on the internet. Based on this, the Norwegian government has included freedom of speech on the internet and in social media as a central part in the Human rights work with the OSCE. The council of Europe is also an arena where the government works to front our interest regarding a free and open internet. The council of Europe is currently working on a strategy for internet “Internet Governance”. A first draft will probably be finished by the end of March (2011 red.anm). The “strategy” will thereafter be discussed in the committee of media issues in June before publishing this autumn. Guidelines regarding social media will also be drafted. III Over 40 countries practice censorship of the internet. Censorship concern different aspects such as blocking of web-sites, blocking of specific search terms, deletion of statement that the government find sensitive, and harassment inflicting the highest degree of self-censorship. In the “Geneva Declaration of Principles”, which is one of the main documents created during The World Summit on the Information Society 2003, freedom of expression is specifically stated as a prerequisite for the information society. Norway was an active participant in drafting this document, specifically pointing out the importance of freedom of speech. I also want to point out that “freedom on the internet” not can exist unlimited and without boundaries. In this regard, i’ts enough to point at the need for protection of privacy, intellectual property rights and copyrights, also consumer rights and fair rules for corporate industry. Just like in other areas of society, such protection is also needed on the internet. On the other hand, freedom of speech is not limited to a “formal right” to express one self. Just as important is the right to mine information and that the underlying structure is functional. Stability, safety and dependability in the infrastructure of the internet are central elements. The same goes for online shopping, and other central areas such as governance, education and health. Another important element regarding freedom of speech on the internet is “net neutrality”: internet should work similar for everyone. The Norwegian directorate for post and phone is also participating on behalf of the Norwegian government in several international institutions such as the United Nations, the European Union and several other organizations on the post and phone department. Protection of freedom of speech and keeping the internet open and inclusive - is a crucial element in the directorates work both nationally and internationally. Internet has through the last 20 years developed into the most important infrastructure of our time. Generally speaking, censorship would be a barrier for free competition, and technology which can circumvent is important in an economic perspective.

Speaking of how censorship on the internet inflicts Norway’s interest – there is to my knowledge – no information about it yet. This is a relatively new issue, and we will keep a watchful eye on it. I Norwegian industry have been hurt by the internet or social media; I encourage organizations from the industry to address the Norwegian chamber of industry or other organizations for further analysis. Best regards. Jonas Gahr Store ***end translation***

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